Friday, March 15, 2013

jumbo sunshine

Imagine the loudest room you’ve ever been in - - then triple it. That is what the inside of Jumbo Sunshine (a Pachinko parlor) sounds like.

For those of you who have not spent copious amounts of time in Okinawa, Pachinko is a gambling-style game involving machines. Even though I spent about 40 minutes “playing” with Yoni and Margot this past week, that’s still about as much as I understand. Suffice it to say that it’s a form of gambling which is HUGE in Okinawa (no, gambling isn’t legal here). I once counted 13 Pachinko parlors on the 35 minute drive to my apartment from the airport.

How do you recognize a Pachinko parlor? Well, they’re hard to miss. Just look for the gaudiest, bawdiest, brightest, biggest, neon-ist building on the block.

Because Pachinko is such a thing here, and because the buildings are so crazy looking from the outside, Yoni has always been interested in doing an exploratory Pachinko trip. He was never able to convince me to go on a Pachinko date, but with Margot here it seemed like the perfect time for an adventure!

And an adventure it was. First of all, the aforementioned noise. I'm really not exaggerating. When the sliding doors opened, a veritable wave of sound washed over us. It was, shall we say, overwhelming. After walking in, we picked a machine and sat down. A kindly Japanese attendant saw us staring blankly and confusedly on the machines and brought over the “English” instructions. (English is in quotation marks because, though the words were recognizable, they were not grouped in any known English sentence structure.)

Even after we figured out how to get the game going, though, the whole experience was still pretty mysterious. Small silver balls went into and came out of the machine a lot, and we had to twist a knob back and forth. We managed to collect many silver balls (the Japanese man told us at least three times that we were “very lucky”) and then decided, after about 45 minutes, that our heads would explode if we didn’t get out of there. And we won some money! So - - it was a successful, if strange, evening. But I’m pretty sure I can speak for all three of us when I say that we’ll never feel the need to do that again.

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